Make iTunes (mostly) work for multiple users on Windows

Been waiting for most of the decade for iTunes to become multi-user savvy? Yeah, me too. Since iTunes’ Windows support is (and will probably continue to be) a bit weak at the edges, here’s how to fool iTunes into playing nice with multi-user Windows installations.

To do this, we’ll need to do two things:

  • Move iTunes’ library and preferences to a common location
  • Fool iTunes into using the new library/preferences locations

You might think you’d do this using Windows Shortcuts. Unfortunately, Shortcuts are too “lame” (sorry to get so technical) to support this.

The solution is to use NFTS junction points, which are more analogous to Mac aliases and Linux symbolic links, and which you can easily find more about if you’re really interested. Otherwise, just download and install NTFS Link, a Windows shell extension that allows us to easily create NTFS junction points.

(Note: These instructions assume you’re using Vista. Since all of my readers are far-above-average when it comes to looks and intelligence, I’m confident that anyone using XP will be able to adjust system folder names and locations accordingly.)

First, open the Public Music folder, which you’ll find in your Public folder. You’ll want to keep this window around, since you’ll be dragging stuff in and out of it until you’re done.

Next, move the iTunes library folder. Open a new window to your personal Music folder, and move the iTunes folder to your already-open Public Music folder. Rename the moved folder iTunes Library.

Then, move the iTunes preferences folder. Open a new window to Username | AppData | Local | Apple Computer, and move the iTunes folder to your already-open Public Music folder. Rename the moved folder iTunes Preferences. (If you can’t see the AppData folders, open the Folder Options control panel, go to the View tab, and make sure Show hidden files and folders is selected.)

Finally, create NTFS junction points. Right-click the iTunes Library folder in Public Music, drag it to your personal Music folder, and choose Create Junction Here. Rename the junction point you just created iTunes. Now right-click the iTunes Preferences folder in Public Music, drag it to Username | AppData | Local | Apple Computer, and choose Create Junction Here. Rename the junction point you just created iTunes.

You’re done! Launch iTunes to verify that it works normally, then just create NTFS junction points for other users as necessary. Since iTunes isn’t multi-user aware it’s best not to run multiple instances of iTunes on different user sessions simultaneously, but you should find that iPod syncing, etc. will great.